Thursday, April 3, 2014

Preschool Themes

Many early childhood teachers use a thematic approach in their classrooms.  There are some keys to choosing a good, developmentally appropriate theme:  
  1. relevance--tied to real life experiences, builds on child's background knowledge, helps children understand the world around them
  2. possibility for hands on activities--firsthand experiences or simulations
  3. available resources and materials
  4. potential for in depth projects to emerge
My first experience in planning a theme was in my junior or senior year in an undergraduate EC curriculum course.  The class was taught my by favorite teacher and later mentor, Dr. Nancy Smith.  A major project for the course was to choose a theme to plan activities around that would be taught in small groups and later be added to a thematic learning center.  We also had to coordinate a dramatic play center to be implemented with our theme.  I love planning and was excited to get started.  I had already decided I would choose a insect theme.  There was a slight problem, I didn't choose a backup plan for a theme and the day we announced our theme to the class someone else (who announced before me) chose an insect theme...what would I do?  Well...when Dr. Smith called my name to record my chosen theme, I blurted out that my theme was "feelings".  Not sure what possessed me to pick that particular theme...but it wasn't a good choice for many reasons...but I made it through that course and never used that theme on its own again (later I used some activities in an "All about me" theme).  

In my almost 19 years working with 2-5 year old kids I have implemented quite a few themes that did work well.  Some day I may devote future posts to outlining activities with certain themes...but for now I will just list my favorite themes.
  • All about me
  • Apples
  • Fall
  • Pumpkins
  • Thanksgiving
  • Winter
  • Spring
  • Five senses
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Pets
  • Zoo
  • Valentine's day
  • Weather--wind, clouds, rain, rainbows
  • Farm
  • Ducks
  • Dinosaurs
  • Berries
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Insects
  • Bubbles
  • Colors
  • Nursery rhymes
  • Fairy tales
  • Breakfast
  • Transportation
  • Garden
  • Camping
  • Clifford 
  • Bakery
  • Birthday
  • Pond life--fish, frogs, reptiles
  • Babies
  • Grocery store
  • Olympics
  • Restaurant
  • 4th of July
  • Community helpers--post office, doctors/nurses, dentists, firefighters, policemen
Here are some pictures from my days of preschool past that highlight some of my favorite themes.  

Visiting sheep during a farm theme.  
Caging animals with our zoo theme.
Harvesting vegetables in dirt table with our garden theme
Washing babies.

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